Veteran Journalist Looks for God in the News
- Whitney Von Lake Hopler Contributing Writer
- 2004 9 Oct
Terrorist killings. Corporate greed. Natural disasters. Celebrity scandals. Watching television (or surfing the Internet, reading a newspaper, or listening to the radio) can be a discouraging experience in our fallen world. While stories of good still abound – neighbors helping neighbors, technological breakthroughs – it’s the bad news that often dominates the headlines.
Where is God in all of this? He can be found in every story, says veteran broadcast journalist Jody Dean, author of the new book "Finding God in the Evening News: A Broadcast Journalist Looks Beyond the Headlines" (Revell). “God uses [the news] to teach us things not only about Him, but ourselves,” Dean says. “Every story resonates within us in some way. Kindness, generosity and love remind us of what He calls us to be. Suffering, greed and hate uncover what we are not. Either way, he reveals Himself and our need of Him.”
News stories have great power to draw people together and closer to God, whether they’re positive ones that inspire or negative ones that help us better understand why we need a Savior, says Dean, an Emmy-Award winning news anchor on the CBS affiliate television station in Dallas/Fort Worth.
“A friend once told me life is like a tapestry. From behind, the stitches seem random and make no sense. But turn it around and a beautiful work of purposed art emerges. Just because I’m standing behind the tapestry doesn’t mean the complete picture isn’t on the other side. I can’t see it, but it’s still there. God says that He determined the lengths of our lives, where we would live, and what would happen to us so that we would live for Him, in the hope that we would 'feel after Him and find Him' (Acts 17:27). Everything is designed for that single purpose. Things look a lot less intimidating or frightening when you really buy into that.”
During his more than 30 years as a journalist, Dean has covered some of the nation’s most memorable stories, like the space shuttle Columbia’s disaster and the Oklahoma City bombings. Stories like these sometimes make Christians feel like turning away from the news and isolating themselves from the tragedies and evil going on in the world, says Dean. But it’s vital for Christians to be fully engaged with the news rather than hiding from it, he adds.
“We tend to respond to disaster and horror the same way Jesus’ followers did after the crucifixion. Everything they’d pinned their hopes on had just been flayed alive, hung up naked for the world to laugh at, and buried in a borrowed grave. Most of the disciples ran for their lives and hid out of sight. Only Mary Magdalene had the courage to go to the tomb - and she did it while it was still dark (John 20:1). That walk must have been terrifying. She risked her freedom and possibly her life to go to a place that must have seemed like the epitome of hopelessness. In spite of what her common sense must have told her, she went anyway. Jesus later appeared to her, first (John 20:14). There’s a big lesson there.”
God wants to use the news to change people’s lives, says Dean. So not only should people tune in, but they should also think and pray about the stories they encounter. To analyze a particular news story, Dean says, “The first thing I’d do is to ask, ‘What is my honest reaction to this story?’ Take that thought captive. Then ask, ‘How does my reaction line up with the heart of God?’ For example, I think a lot of us are tempted to look at some stories in the news and feel superior or righteous, when God is really using events to address our pride. Third, I think it’s absolutely imperative to understand that [an] omnipotent God can operate through single or multiple events equally and uniquely in every life simultaneously. When I report any story, I realize God is using it to work on me – but also on everyone else touched by it, according to His specific purposes for each.”
All journalists must wrestle with stories that touch nerves for them personally, yet still strive to be objective in reporting them. But while, as Dean writes, journalists’ jobs are “to simply inform – nothing more,” they can count on God to reveal Himself in the stories they cover. Since God is “the ultimate managing editor,” Dean says he can approach even the most controversial stories with confidence.
“If my faith informs all I do, then I can’t help but be anything but objective. I think that’s particularly true when it comes to unpleasant stories involving the church and fellow believers. One of the most infamous stories I’ve had to cover was the sexual abuse of altar boys by a priest in the local Catholic diocese, and the cover-up engaged in by his superiors that largely enabled his activities. The temptation would be to minimize or whitewash what happened, but if I’m completely Christ’s, then the truth simply cannot be avoided or concealed. I must honestly report what is or was, and let the consequences work as God wills. He’s the Lord of the Harvest, not me … and I don’t get to negotiate myself out of sowing the seed I’m given.
"I feel the same way about reporting on issues regarding the church and homosexuality. However I feel about the subject personally, I can’t escape the fact that God showed me outrageous mercy. Therefore, I must show outrageous mercy to others – especially to those with whom I may disagree.”
No matter what stories the news brings, says Dean, people can approach them as Jesus would – by seeing opportunities for deliverance. “The news,” Dean writes, “is a call to prayer, action – and hope.”
For more information about "Finding God in the Evening News" and Jody Dean, click here.